We once thought that Marni was the new Prada. That was in the mid ’90s, when Sex and the City apparently captured the zeitgeist. In that TV series, Prada was name-checked 14 times, just twice less than Manolo Blahnik (a respectable 16). So desirable was Prada at that time that we had hoped more labels with that familiar-yet-so-different-and-offbeat aesthetic would emerge and we found it in Marni, a brand forever associated with the art gallerist (as if only women ran art galleries, as if those who do mostly have a kooky sense of taste) and the art crowd.
Now, about twenty years later, we think Prada has possessed Marni. Francesco Risso, the guy who succeeded the brand Consuelo Castiglioni founded with her husband in 1994 has re-imagined Marni with the ghost of Prada, where he spent close to ten years, after time with Anna Molinari and Alessandro Dell’Acqua. Or maybe it was just us. Apparitions are difficult to make certain. Sometimes, you just sense it: a coat here, a skirt there, a touch of scarf, bits of fur.
It was like Prada on a lull season. Not that that is a bad thing. One can never immediately and completely shake off one’s just-past near-decade. So for Mr Risso to bring along the not-quite-ordinary from his last employment to a house known for its alternative take on what constitutes modern elegance is possibly a good start for continuing the Marni brand of creative defiance. This first collection is interesting (even when we are generally reluctant to use that vague term) and will not alienate Marni fans, but we did feel that there was too conscious an effort in respecting the house codes.
Take some of the jackets, for example, specifically the one from the first look, in the colour of butter. Yes, the Marni shape was there, but the sort-of-cocoon back, while appealing, was a wee bit too deliberate. The back design was repeated, and slowly, the Marni boxiness emerged and stayed. We love the typical boxy cut of the Marni jacket, so naturally we were delighted that Mr Risso has opted to retain it. Of course, Prada is known for their sometimes boxy shapes as well. In that respect, it was perhaps synergy at work. Or was it just the apparition?
By the time the prints and the mix of prints emerged, we found ourselves tugging at being convinced. Or could it be that, by now, odd pairings of patterns no longer fascinate? We can’t say for sure, but there’s something not quite art-crowd about Mr Risso’s prints and there is no surprise in the mix, not even when you run a length of decorative lace meandering down the skirt. Or the textures: what looked like terry with semi-shine leather (or PU, we can’t tell) just did not spell luxe. When look 45 (49 looks in total) appeared, the crazy cocktail of a floral funnel-neck blouse worn under a floral bra and matching outer and paired with a dotted skirt with drawstrings to create ruching, we had to commit the Marni we remember to the deeper recesses of nostalgia.
It’s not really been out in the open why Consuelo Castiglioni chose to step down. Rumours in fashion are always rife, and this one involves the brand’s owner Only The Brave (OTB), an Italian group that also controls Viktor & Rolf and Margiela. Could she have regretted selling it to OTB’s Renzo Rosso, who, according to W Magazine, is “a flamboyant paterfamilias, who prefers provocation to political correctness”? We hope that Francesco Risso would be able to stand himself in good stead so that Consuelo Castiglioni would not need to make a comeback a la Jil Sander. And then disappear again.